Fantail Lodge – a boutique lodge nestled in the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges, has forged a name for romantic getaways combined with fine dining – based on locally grown fresh produce and game.
And the owners intend to hold on to their hard-won reputation, as work begins on a $12 million development to construct 10 new villas.
The Tudor-style lodge has real hideaway appeal, set amid 40 acres of secluded gardens, rocky creeks and subtropical plantations. Add to that the award-winning culinary skills of chef / owner Harrie Geraerts, well known for his pork, duck and other game dishes.
‘I think game is one of the most honest meats – with no additives, not tampered with – it’s pure and I like working with that.’
The Dutch immigrant and his family started the lodge 20 years ago with ‘one humble guest room,’ but are now taking a big jump, Harrie explains, to build the luxury villas as a separate village, but within walking distance of the main lodge.
That doesn’t mean, he is at pains to point out, abandoning the rural lodge ambience for a ‘glossy, sterile, city-like facility, which wouldn’t fit here.’
The decor of the villas now under construction, will be modern but not trendy, with the aim of preserving the ‘country feel.’ The new accommodation will provide 30 rooms – and enable them to cater for groups of up to 60 people attending a conference or other corporate gathering. But the complex will also provide for a ‘romantic small-scale happening’ or wedding-type celebration. And a couple can still rent a villa on their own to escape the city for the weekend.
Villas will be fitted out with the latest in fibre optics to provide for video, sound and broadband Internet. Each one - built in a two hectare park-like setting, looking towards the Kaimais - will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms (125 metres of floor space). There are plenty of native trees and a running stream; ‘rural New Zealand but 25 minutes from Tauranga,’ says Harrie.
A ‘well known New Zealander’ has already booked a wedding for the New Year, because it’s a secluded, luxury venue screened off from the public. ‘It’s easy to secure and they can be themselves and relaxed. ’ No names of course.
A number of villas will be privately owned as holiday homes, to be used around two months a year, and rented out by the Gaerarts the rest of the time. They are priced at $450,000 – but this pays for a villa ready to walk into, complete with linen, and fresh flowers on the table. It is believed they will rise 5% to 10% in value once the village is complete.
Part of the appeal is not having to cook for yourself. Villa guests can of course, but it rarely happens, not surprisingly, when Harrie offers to ‘create whatever’s desired ’ for them.
The chef likes to use produce in season picked from their own gardens. For example the plums are ready now, perfect for a pork dish with an organic fresh plum sauce. Quite often Harrie takes guests into the garden to show them ‘that’s where the fennel grows, that’s where the spinach grows...they like that.’
The villas are expected to be completed by about June, with a few weeks needed to finalise the interior fit outs, before they’re ready to occupy in July.
The development is a ‘dream scenario’ for the family, coming at the end of the financial crisis. They were able to get excellent building quotes and now hope to reap the benefits of an improving economy. ‘It’s a big jump for us but you’re only young once...’